In a shocking turn of events, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced his resignation on Tuesday amidst a deepening corruption investigation surrounding the allocation of energy-related contracts.
Costa’s decision came after investigators conducted searches in various ministries and his own offices, casting a shadow of suspicion over his government.
During a press conference following a conversation with President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Costa stated, “The duties of prime minister are not compatible with any suspicion of my integrity. In these circumstances, I have presented my resignation to the president of the Republic.”
The investigation, which has sent shockwaves through the political landscape, extends to allegations of “misuse of funds, active and passive corruption by political figures, and influence peddling,” according to a statement from public prosecutors. Infrastructure Minister Joao Galamba has been indicted, and an arrest warrant has been issued for Costa’s chief of staff.
One particularly concerning aspect of the inquiry is the alleged personal intervention of Costa to expedite the controversial contracts. These contracts encompass lithium mining concessions in northern Portugal, a hydrogen production project, and a data center planned by Start Campus in Sines, a town located approximately 100 kilometers south of Lisbon.
The situation has escalated to the point where arrest warrants have been issued for the mayor of Sines and two senior executives at Start Campus, citing the risk of flight and the possibility of ongoing illegal activities.
Additionally, the president of the executive board of the Portuguese Agency for the Protection of the Environment (APA) has been indicted.
Notably, APA approved a lithium mining project in May, a critical element for electric battery production, and a second project received the green light in September. These projects have faced opposition from environmental groups and a segment of the local population, further intensifying the scrutiny on the government’s actions.
Portugal is known for having the largest lithium reserves in Europe and is a significant producer on the continent. However, the current output primarily serves the ceramic and glass-making industries.
Costa, a member of Portugal’s Socialist Party, had held the position of prime minister since late 2015 and was reelected in January 2022. His popularity had dwindled recently due to a series of scandals linked to the national airline TAP, and now, he faces a grave political crisis with his resignation amid this corruption probe. The nation will now navigate the aftermath of this seismic development as investigations continue to unfold.